Lotus is adding a brand-new Exige coupe to its lineup for the 2006 model year. The Exige joins the Elise roadster, which debuted in the U.S. for 2005. According to Lotus, the limited-production Exige is "aimed at dedicated driving and track day enthusiasts" and is intended mainly for operation on a race track.
Lotus says the Exige takes the mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive Elise's "extraordinary ... performance and handling characteristics one step further." Like the Elise, the Exige coupe is built in Britain. Lotus has 32 dealerships in the U.S.
Even though the Exige looks similar to the soft-top Elise, the two sports cars use different sheet metal. Only the door panels are shared. Both are based on the same 150-pound aluminum chassis. Both models are flamboyantly styled, and each car's appearance is augmented by a variety of vents and curves — some shapely, others practical in nature.
According to Lotus, aerodynamic features on the Exige generate 90 pounds of downforce at 100 mph. Smoothed bodywork and an undertray with a rear diffuser help achieve the downforce. Forged aluminum wheels are standard.
Bilstein shock absorbers work with Eibach coil springs, and cross-drilled rotors and twin-piston Lotus/AP brake calipers are installed. Built on a 90.5-inch wheelbase, the Exige measures 149.5 inches long overall and is 45.6 inches tall.
As in the Elise, only two people can fit inside the Exige. The small steering wheel is barely more than a foot in diameter. An air conditioning-delete option is offered, and composite sport seats come only in black. An optional Touring Pack includes leather seats, additional sound insulation, an upgraded stereo system and full carpeting.
Under the Hood
The Exige's mid-mounted, 1.8-liter four-cylinder generates 190 horsepower at 7,800 rpm and 138 pounds-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm. Twin oil coolers are used.
The sole transmission is a six-speed manual. A shift light integrated into the 10,000-rpm tachometer is used to warn when the 8,000-rpm redline is reached. Options include traction control and a torque-sensing limited-slip differential. Meant to distribute power more evenly between the rear tires during autocross competition, the limited-slip differential permits more aggressive acceleration when exiting corners.
The antilock brake system is specially calibrated for delayed actuation, which allows competition-oriented drivers to perform "threshold" braking.